Today, a bomb destroyed an Israeli diplomatic car in New Delhi, injuring at least two people, and another bomb was defused after being discovered on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in Tbilisi. Israel is blaming Iran for both of the attacks. How common are attacks on diplomats—and what form do they usually take?
One of the most comprehensive studies of this question comes from a 1982 RAND paper. The number of attacks on diplomats tends to rise along with conflict and war: Attacks rose sharply in the early ’80s, driven by attacks connected to the Iran-Iraq War and violence in Central America. The most common technique, according to the report, was bombing, which accounted for about half of all recorded attacks. Kidnappings, in contrast, peaked in 1970 and did not increase after that time. The report also discusses the tactic behind some of history’s most infamous attacks on diplomats: Embassy seizures. “Except for the publicity it produces,” the study argues, “seizing embassies appears generally to be a losing proposition for terrorists.” In only 17 percent of such cases were terrorists’ demands fully met, and nearly half the time, the terrorists were ultimately arrested, captured, or killed.